|Sacred Waters - Holy Wells & Water Lore in Britain & Ireland, by Janet & Colin Bord (Granada, 1985)|
A comprehensive account of the folklore of wells and water in the British Isles. By the 1980s there was quite a body of information about wells, scattered around in various local studies and books of folklore as well as Hope's book. For the first time, the Bords brought it all together in a coherent account which examined various themes in well-worship - healing, ghosts, saints, the connection between wells and other ancient sites, and so on. The book has lots of good illustrations, too, and is very readable. It's probably the best place to start for the general reader - though it may well
not be easy to track down these days.
|The Living Stream, by James Rattue (Boydell & Brewer, 1995)|
And then I turned up! After a long while being interested in wells, I became dissatisfied with a great deal of what was available to read about them and so wrote this, which was intended to a) provide a history of the revering of wells, how it had developed over time, rather than a collection of folklore, and b) focus on England rather than the Celtic nations which seemed to me to have received most of the attention up till then. It turned out to be a bit polemic and were I writing it again I'd tone down some parts, but I think the argument stands up and has been pretty well accepted by mostresearchers in the field. I like to think Living Stream is easy for the general reader to understand, but it's still basically an academic book, and the only illustrations are a few maps. Note that you can't buy it from me! You'll have to contact the publishers, Boydell & Brewer, or find it through a bookseller.
|Holy Wells in the British Isles, by Christina Martin (Wooden Books, 2000)|
This is a lovely small book, part of the Wooden Books series about ancient and numinous sites. Christina covers twenty-or-so wells throughout Britain, and illustrates them with her evocative drawings. Many more wells are mentioned through the text. Very friendly and beautiful to read through.
|The Magic and Mystery of Holy Wells, by Edna Whelan (Capall Bann, 2001)|
I'm not an enormous fan of Capall Bann and its output about earth-mysteries and allied subjects, but Edna Whelan's book is a useful short account of holy wells, even if it's a bit old-fashioned in its approach to them. Most of the examples are drawn from Yorkshire and show how one area can illustrate the whole variety of holy and other wells. You get the benefit of Edna's lovely drawings - albeit not done justice by the reproduction.
|FishStoneWater - Holy Wells of Ireland, by Anna Rackard & Liam O'Callaghan (Atrium, 2001)|
Although like Edna Whelan's this is a regional well-study, it warrants a look because it's completely different from every other holy well book. It's a beautifully produced, wonderfully composed collection of photographs illustrating about thirty Irish holy wells and the pilgrimages and customs surrounding them. Glorious, and a moving depiction of quiet piety and ordinary people.
|Cures and Curses - Ritual & Cult at Holy Wells (Heart of Albion, 2006); Holy Wells in Britain, a Guide (Heart of Albion, 2008), both by Janet Bord|
I'm treating these two books together because they really are companion volumes. Janet & Colin Bord's Sacred Waters looked at the folklore of holy wells and finished with a gazzetteer of sites; a generation on, and we know so much more that this update spreads into two books. Cures and Curses tackles well lore in a series of more than seventy short essays, 'from Ampullae to Witches', as the blurb says. St Winifred's Well at Holywell makes slightly more appearances than one might expect, but I do wonder whether Tristan Gray-Hulse should really have a credit as joint author were he not the modest man he is. Holy Wells in Britain takes the country county-by-county and gives a full account of several hundred wells which are rewarding to visit, together with a splendid range of photographs revealing how wonderfully varied British holy wells really are. Sacred Waters was a rather weightier and glossy volume; but together, these two books are now indispensable for anyone getting interested in hydrolatry. A longer review of Holy Wells in Britain here.
|English Holy Wells: A Sourcebook by Jeremy Harte (3 vols: Heart of Albion, 2008)|
At last! Jeremy Harte's colossal work of research, investigating every Christianised holy well in England (excluding Cornwall) significantly rewrites the story. For the first time, he establishes exactly what we know securely about English wells, and from that sound basis proceeds to develop a new chronology of the development of the well-cult between the conversion of Britain and the Reformation. It's difficult to overstate what a fantastic contribution this makes to the study of holy wells - and it's engagingly written and accessible, too, wearing its enormous learning very lightly. Cannot be highly enough recommended. A longer review here.
Holy and Healing Wells - Ross Parish's holy wells blog
Wellhopper - exploring the wells of North Wales (not updated for a long time but some nice accounts of wells)
Wells and Spas Mailing List Archive
London's Holy Wells - David Furlong's page hunting out the location and current state of the capital's noted springs
The Source archive - the back copies of the old holy wells journal that ran in the 1980s and 90s
The Megalithic Portal - an open-access compendium of ancient site information. This link should go straight to the holy wells filter